Let me state up front that my book, The Collagen Diet: Rejuvenate Skin, Strengthen Joints, and Feel Younger by Boosting Collagen Intake and Production, was just released this week. (If you are interested in purchasing, please hop over to the “Where to Purchase” dropdown tab.)
I also would like to share with you that before writing the book, I was on the fence about collagen supplements, even though a lot of my patients were consuming them even before their first visit. Collagen protein supplements, typically labelled as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, are the supplement du jour, close to taking over vitamin D in popularity. You may already be taking vitamin D for your PCOS and your general health (more to know about this that I discuss in depth here: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/vitamin-d-supplementation-panacea-potential-problem/ ). But are you taking collagen? I wasn’t until I did the research.
Because of the scientific evidence, I am now convinced that including a source of collagen protein in a well-balanced diet is super important for many reasons. I go into these reasons in-depth in my book, but due to space limitations, I did not specifically address why collagen protein could be helpful for women with PCOS. And while collagen protein is thought of as trendy supplement, it is far from just that. It was historically a very important component of a nutrient-dense diet, part of the concept of nose-to-tail eating.
But why might collagen protein be helpful for PCOS?
It is known from a handful of studies that women with PCOS have lower levels of the body’s endogenous (that is, made in the body) master antioxidant and detoxifier: glutathione. One study showed cellular levels of glutathione were actually only half of those in women without PCOS. This goes hand in hand with the increased levels of damaging oxidative stress in PCOS, thought in part to be caused by higher levels of testosterone. High levels of oxidative stress are thought to underlie metabolic syndrome (marked by elevated blood glucose and dyslipidemia), infertility, and DNA damage. It is also a reason that women with PCOS are at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, it is suspected that this oxidative stress may be one of the reasons many women have difficulty managing this condition, despite good dietary and lifestyle practices.
Enter collagen protein. Collagen protein is the second-best dietary source of glycine (edible bones are the best source, but not widely consumed!). Glycine is one of the three amino acids that the body uses to create glutathione, along with cysteine and glutamate. If three are needed, why single out glycine? Because glycine is often the limiting amino acid (meaning the one the body runs out of) controlling the synthesis of robust quantities of glutathione. The amount of glutathione the body can make is decreased if there is an inadequate supply of glycine.
Studies cited in my book show that most people have a shortfall of glycine in their diets, by several grams per day. Studies also show that increasing the intake of glycine can increase the amount of glutathione made, and this can occur in a matter of a few weeks.
My advice: a good rule of thumb would be to include 1-2 grams of collagen protein for every 10 grams of total protein eaten each day. So, if you are consuming 75-100 grams, typical for women between 125 and 175 lbs, that would be 7.5 – 20 grams. You can get this from a collagen peptide supplement, gelatin, bone broth, or fish and chicken consumed with the skin. You will find lots of other ways in my book and tips on what to look for in a supplement.
One of the side benefits of consuming collagen protein/glycine is you may actually find your blood sugar becomes less erratic, your skin hydration improves, you sleep better, and you may even see your hair on your head get thicker and your nails stronger. For me, my HbA1c dropped by 0.5% with a regular collagen regimen which was an unexpected benefit.
Finally, as detailed in my book, consuming low-temperature processed whey protein along with your collagen protein could improve glutathione levels even more than collagen alone. This is because there is a special form of highly bioavailable cysteine in this type of whey protein that also supports robust glutathione synthesis. I have a shake with whey protein, collagen protein, and plain kefir daily.
If you are thinking this might be helpful for you, please discuss with your doctor or a knowledgeable nutritionist, and then choose your collagen supplement carefully (again something I cover in the book.)